My mom used to make a lot of dinners that I didn’t like: swiss cheese chicken, vegetable stir fry, stuffed peppers, and so on. Her favorite thing to make was tuna casserole. But after making it for us for ten years, my dad admitted that he didn’t like tuna. When he was away on business, she made it again, but my plate remained untouched. When she asked why, I said that I didn’t like tuna. “That’s ridiculous. You’ve eaten it a million times and you’re only saying you don’t like it because your father said that.” But I was convinced that I suddenly no longer liked tuna.
When I got to college, I would hold my nose every time my roommate made a tuna salad sandwich. I didn’t see the appeal of eating mush on burnt toast. Then, my boyfriend, Andre, started eating tuna sandwiches every time we visited his dad. Every time, I asked, “Are you really going to eat that?” And every time, he ate it. In reality, it didn’t smell as bad as my roommate’s and I was curious to try it. It took several visits worth of tuna sandwiches before I spoke up and asked for one. Andre’s response was “Ooh, really?” He was proud of himself for getting me to step out of my comfort zone. I sunk into the sandwich and realized that I had been wrong.
When Andre and I moved into our studio apartment, I was looking for simple meals to cook in our cramped kitchen. I searched online for a tuna salad recipe, but each one called for two cans of tuna, and it seemed like overkill. I gave up my search and texted Andre’s dad for the right recipe: “1 can of tuna, drained. Five or six hard-boiled eggs, diced. Just a little salt, some pepper, and 3 or 4 tablespoons of mayo. However much it takes to be the right texture. Not dry, but not runny.”
I made it while Andre was at work, and I couldn’t wait until he got home. I barely let the eggs cool before making a sandwich, praising myself for how close it was to his dad’s. I was ready for him to come home and tell me how my tuna salad was better than his dad’s and that this is why he loves me. He clearly chose me based off my ability to recreate his favorite dishes from home. There was no way he would have anything bad to say.
He came home tired and I kept asking if he wanted a sandwich. He finally succumbed and said yes. He took one bite and complained. “You made it with that smoked tuna that I don’t like, didn’t you?” I immediately went on defense and said that I only used whatever it was that he bought and put in the cupboard. “It’s your fault if it’s smoked. You should’ve read the label in the store.” But I was still confident that it was regular tuna. So we dug the can out the trash to find that I was right. But this meant that there wasn’t an excuse for him to hate my tuna salad. He said, “Babe, don’t worry. I don’t hate it.” But he ate half of his sandwich and I ate the rest of the tuna salad by myself throughout the week. I suddenly understood what it meant to be a mom who cooked dinner and had her kid tell her she hated it. I now love and miss my mom’s tuna casserole, but I haven’t cooked anything else for my boyfriend, because I fear a second rejection.